Choosing the Right Technical Path

“It’s Like Drinking Water from a Fire Hose”

I have heard this saying for many years, but could not understand the significance (or truth) of the statement until I began my technical studies. There is so much ‘stuff’ that you can learn in the technical field; and when you finally choose an area to study, then there is more ‘stuff’ to choose and learn in that area. And on top of that, there is ALWAYS new information, new breakthroughs, new technology, new terminology, new updates on old ‘stuff’; and you, as a ‘techie’ want to know it ALL! The truth is there is so much exciting technology out there, but you can’t learn it all. You must decide a general interest area and go from there; so we’re going to take a 10,000 foot view of the technical landscape. Yet, even from this view, we’ll not have time to talk about other learning areas like Azure, Big Data, Database Administration or Sharepoint 2013 BI; but we’ll cover as much as we can.

Hopefully, after this 10,000 foot view, you will see where your technical interests might lie. Personally, as I was interested in Business Intelligence, the Database Fundamentals was the path I chose when I decided to take my first Microsoft exam. We won’t talk about actual exams at this point, but the information contained in the exam ‘areas’ will assist you as you make a decision on your study path.

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Tracks

Microsoft has entry level training and certification exams in three fundamental areas: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Software Development. Within each of these areas are different knowledge exams that help you learn core knowledge. I won’t go into detail for each of the specifics, but I’ve included a link for you later in the blog so you can research these areas at your leisure. So before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is IT Infrastructure anyway?

Techopedia.com explains IT Infrastructure as follows:
“IT infrastructure refers to the composite hardware, software, network resources and services required for the existence, operation and management of an enterprise IT environment. It allows an organization to deliver IT solutions and services to its employees, partners and/or customers and is usually internal to an organization and deployed within owned facilities.

Typically, a standard IT infrastructure consists of the following components:
• Hardware: Servers, computers, data centers, switches, hubs and routers, etc.
• Software: Enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), productivity applications and more.
• Network: Network enablement, Internet connectivity, firewall, and security.
• Human users, such as network administrators (NA), developers, designers and generic end users with access to any IT appliance or service are also part of an IT infrastructure, specifically with the advent of user-centric IT service development.
• All components that play a role in overall IT and IT-enabled operations. It can be used for internal business operations or developing customer IT or business solutions. “

Three Major Subject Areas

IT Infrastructure : For folks wanting to build a career in desktop or server infrastructure, or a private cloud computing.
349: Windows Operating System
365: Windows Server Administration
366: Networking
367: Security

Database: For folks wanting to build a career in data platform administration or Business Intelligence
364: Database

Developer: For folks wanting to build a career as a software developer.
361: Software Development
362: Windows Development
363: Web Development
372: .NET Fundamentals
373: Mobile Development
374: Gaming Development
375: HTML5 App Development
379: Software Testing

My Particular Path

As you can see, there are lots of options for you to explore, so I encourage you to check out the links and do your own research. As my interest is Business Intelligence, I chose Database Fundamentals. We’ll talk about certification much later in the blog series. For right now, I want you to take time to research the three major areas: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Developer. Once you decide on one, then drill down and examine the learning areas. Find out if you’re interested in software testing or security, business intelligence or Windows Server administrator. Remember ‘drinking water from a fire hose’? Once you know your areas of interests, it should ‘turn down the water pressure’ a little bit.

Where Do I Begin My Studies?

You’ve got some research to do. You’re learning your way around; so have fun on this journey.

1. Start with a general overview of the different facets of Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) with this link to Microsoft. You’ll see three tabs: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Developer.

MTA Certification Tracks

2. When you click on a tab, a dropdown box will show you what exam(s) are included in this area.

Sections

3. Click the box entitled ‘Exam’, then scroll down to ‘Skills Measured’; this section provides you details of information you will need to master in this subject area. Expand each area and find out what you are expected to know in order to master a certain area of study.  Then begin work on one area; start small but start somewhere!  Build on your new knowledge, one topic at a time.

Tabs

Terminology, Terminology, Terminology Again!

Remember when I told you the importance of using the correct technology in a tech savvy environment? Be sure to visit  Technopedia.   At this site you’ll learn the newest terms and definitions, top tags and buzzwords, and much more. In fact, I’ll probably hang out here a while myself! So start clicking!

Join me next time as we explore three major FREE learning sites and one ‘really low cost’ but excellent training site.   Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

 

Technical Tidbits: Knowledge Documents

‘Technical Tidbits’ is a new addition to this blog comprised of mini-blogs on different technical topics. Not all of these topics will be on the introduction level; in fact, most will deal with new things I’m learning as I continue on my own technical journey. These little blogs will expose you to advanced topics. You will want to read them and tuck them away for later review. For example, you may not have a clue about parameter tables now; but when you begin your study of the DAX language, you will remember the ‘tidbit’ blog and have it to review. Think of  ‘Technical Tidbits’ as little markers down the road; they’re showing you what lies ahead.

Our first ‘tidbit’ is a simple concept I wished I had employed at the beginning of my technical journey; it would have been of great help over the years. Don’t expect flashes of light and angel choirs in the background, it’s a simple little thing; it’s called a Knowledge Document.

Knowledge Document

A Knowledge document is a simple word document or spreadsheet where you record learning links and bits of code you find in your studies. In fact, I have several Knowledge Documents: one for keeping a list of training links on different topics, one for cool SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) expressions, another for T-SQL and Functions (Time Date, Cast/Convert, etc) for SQL Server 2012, and another one for DAX and PivotTables/Tabular with Excel 2013. There is just so much out there to know and learn; a Knowledge Document helps you to keep up with everything. There’s nothing worst that knowing there’s something you really need for your technical project, but you can’t find the link or the expression, or the function, or ……..

Creating a Knowledge Document is easy; just create a new word document or use a spreadsheet. You can insert a table or label topic areas; make the document easy for you to use, it’s for your use alone. The hard part is taking the time to record the nifty things you learn along the way. I didn’t find out about the concept of Knowledge Documents until two years into my learning; so I wasted lots of time looking for stuff over and over, because I didn’t save them in a file the first time!

Create a folder and keep all your Knowledge Documents in ONE location. It will make for an easy time when you need to locate something fast!   See, I told you not to expect fireworks; this is simple common sense.  I just wish I had thought about it sooner.  Sigh!

Wanting to make your technical journey easier,
Susan

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Overcoming Obstacles

You Are Not Alone in Your Desire to Change Careers

A recent article in USA Today (link below) discussed the fact that many people in their 40s and 50s were planning major career moves. The article noted that only 41% were working in their dream job; what about the other 60% of us? It surveyed folks over 40 to get their views on what ranked the most important for their ‘dream job’, the biggest obstacles to obtaining that dream job, and changes they wanted to make within the next five years.

Among the most important considerations for a ‘dream job’ were: Higher Pay (23%), Better Work/Life Balance (22%), Lower Stress (15%), Flexible Work Schedule (12%), Desire to Give Back to the Community (10%), Fun Environment (9%), and an Opportunity to Learn or Advance (8%). Of those surveyed, 27% viewed financial obligations as the biggest obstacle to having their dream job, followed by lack of opportunity where they live (19%), lack of adequate training (15%), difficulty in starting a business (14%), lack of time to look for a better job (5%), and not knowing where to start on the job search (3%). I am sure that most, if not all of us, fall into one of these categories. It’s very interesting to note that 46% of those surveyed wanted to make a change in their professional life within the next five years. I told you, ‘You are not alone!” on the career changing journey. Along my personal ‘career changing journey’, I encountered similar obstacles, and I’ll focus on the top four in this blog.

Lack of Self-Confidence….Seriously?

The four largest obstacles I encountered in my ‘technical transition’ were: lack of self-confidence, money, time, and motivation. I can show you sites and provide you information for free or low cost training, but I can’t improve your self-esteem. Knowing this is a huge problem for many of us, I want to address this obstacle first. Think about it, the biggest obstacle to becoming technically proficient might be YOU; at least this was the case for me.

When I left the job market to raise our children, the task of re-entering the job arena loomed large. My thoughts plagued me. What do I have to ‘bring to the table’ in a job setting? Do I have any marketable skills for the current job environment? Can I really ‘self-learn’ and change careers at my age? Can I ‘catch up’? It was a process for me to gain the self-confidence I needed for the journey; step by step. Trust me, it didn’t come overnight! However, with each new skill I learned, each new terminology grasped, each technical book I finished; the pieces (and self-confidence) started falling into place. I want you to address the self-confidence obstacle head on; embrace the self-confidence battle and don’t defeat yourself.

Money, Money, Money

So you might be thinking, “If I had lots of money, I wouldn’t be looking for a job!” How much is this technical training going to cost me? You can spend a lot of cash and take courses at a local college specializing in computer studies, but I’m all about getting the ‘biggest bang for my computer training buck’. Stick with me and I’ll show you how to get lots of free (and low cost training) that will reap huge dividends. Sure, you’re going to need some cash along the way to buy a few training books, to purchase some software, or maybe take a focused, short-term course; but it’s a small amount when compared to the alternatives. I’m all about free training when I can get, and there’s LOTS of excellent free training out there. Oddly enough, it’s not a lack of free training but carving out the time for the training; this leads to our next obstacle.

Time, Love, and Tenderness

Some of you might be in a full-time job somewhere; so carving out time to study is not easy. Start thinking now about when you can set aside a regular block of time for study, each day if possible. If you’re working full-time and in a relationship, that doesn’t leave lots of time to study; so it is always a good idea to have a conversation with your ‘significant other’. Life, and your study time, will be more productive if you have the support of your loved ones in your career change adventure.

Motivate Me

This is much like the ‘Self-confidence’ issue, in that you are the only one who can make yourself study and be committed to push through difficult training concepts. Only you can make yourself go to the monthly SQL Server meetings or other technical groups. Only you can commit and follow through with completing a 500+ page technical book. You get the picture.

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato

I would be remiss if I did not address the importance of learning the correct technical terminology along the way. As you study, whatever the technical subject, pay close attention to the terminology used and HOW it is used. Nothing will give you away faster in a technically savvy crowd than to mix up your terminology.

Complete Your Homework?

So how did you do with the last blog assignment? You know, the one about locating a local computer group and visiting? If you have not completed that task, it’s time to get moving on it. Click here if you need to re-read that blog post. Getting involved in a local server group is a great (and free) way to learn new topics AND network at the same time.

Let’s Get Your Feet Wet with Some Free Training this Month!

Pragmatic Works is an excellent training resource; I’ll be blogging soon about all the wonderful things those guys and gals do for the technical community. They also offer free weekly webinars along with virtual training classes for a fraction of what you would pay at a community college. So let’s take advantage of one or two of their free ‘Training on the T’s’ webinars.

I selected two free webinars to get you started: ‘Power BI tips for the Data Analyst’ on July 15th at 11:00 AM by Angel Abundez and ‘Networking to Build Your Business Contacts and Boost Your Revenue’ on July 23rd at 11:00 AM by Don Gabor. If you cannot watch them live, you can view them later by going to the ‘Past Webinars’ section. I’ve provided a link to take you directly to the Learning Center at the Pragmatic Works website. Click ‘Future Webinars’ and scroll until you locate the webinars. You’ll need to register for them, and it’s free.

Be sure to subscribe for new blog notifications.  Subscribers of this blog will get extra ‘technical tidbits’ between regular blog posts; make sure you don’t miss out on anything!   See you next time when we talk about “How to Decide the Right Computer Training Path”.

Link for USA Today article 

Link for Pragmatic Works Learning Center

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!